Separation of Church and State
Dear Member of Blavatsky Net,
Blavatsky made a prediction that has puzzled me for a couple of decades now. In her 1888 book, The Secret Doctrine, she wrote:
Chemistry and physiology are the two great magicians of the future, who are destined to open the eyes of mankind to the great physical truths. (SDi261)
I wondered how this could be. It seemed to me more likely that physics would be the field of study to accomplish the task of "opening the eyes of mankind". It could talk about the existence of external consciousness, as suggested by quantum mechanics. It could talk about the emerging ideas of the electrical nature of the universe that could be compared to Theosophy's "fohat". Physics could talk about "entanglement" of distant particles and demonstrate a fundamental underlying oneness to nature. Maybe, I thought, some aspects of physics, such as the discovery of the electron, that ripped away the veil of nature (as she predicted) had been simply misclassified into physics instead of chemistry as she expected and that had caused some error in the way I was interpreting her prediction.
But physiology? Really now. I would not expect physiology, a much softer science, to be the magician that would open mankind's eyes to great physical truths.
But… This prediction of hers was sent to me again just recently and it looked entirely differently to me now.
Now we have paid careful attention to her explanation in the beginning of the Secret Doctrine that one of her aims in writing that book was to show that nature was "not a fortuitous concurrence of atoms". Clearly she was taking aim at a materialistic scientific view that included Darwinism.
Now the issue of Darwinism versus ID that is raging in the land qualifies as one of the meanings of her quote above. Chemistry certainly includes what we would call "biochemistry" today. One thinks of the work of Michael Behe in demonstrating that the molecular knowledge gained over the last several decades shows clear evidence of intelligent design.
And physiology is one of the central issues in this ongoing debate. Darwinists look at the morphology and special features and organs of species for much of their debate.
So I now consider that her prediction has been vindicated. These two magicians are in the process of "opening the eyes of mankind to great physical truths." (And just to be fair to her intent, if you read the above quote in context, it appears to me that she is referring not only to this Darwinism issue, but to yet more. Read it yourself and decide.)
I am rather encouraged by discovering this interpretation of her above quote. So I will discuss this some more.
Probably many readers of this newsletter will be aware of the recent ruling by the federal judge in Pennsylvania that prohibited the presentation of intelligent design material in the classrooms of Dover. It was a setback for an airing of spiritual views and ultimately for movement in the direction of Theosophy - indeed, the very movement that Blavatsky predicted in the above quote.
For his fundamental criteria, the judge referred to "separation of church and state" as mandated by the constitution of the US. And of course that judge is not alone. We hear this clause referred to over and over again. Since this oft - repeated phrase is contributing to the blocking of Theosophical (as well as other spiritual) teachings, I decided to investigate it.
A majority of people think the phrase "separation of church and state" is part of the constitution. However it does not appear anywhere in that document. What the judges, from the Supreme Court on down, are refering to in judging religious issues is a portion of the 1st amendment to the Constitution. But in the first amendment there is no instance of the word "separation," or "church," or "state." We will need to look further to find the origin of that phrase.
Let’s look deeper. What that amendment says is: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Now something must strike us as odd. One of the important reasons for the founding of this country was the desire for freedom to practice religion. And the founding fathers were "spiritual" people. They included reference to "nature's God" in the Declaration of Independence that gave birth to this country. Why should they have inserted a clause in the constitution against religion? The simple answer is that the founding fathers did not have the negative views toward religion that have been ascribed to them.
We should revisit the writing of that amendment.
At that time, at least six states supported their own religions: Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Those states taxed their citizens to support those religions and required conformance in various ways. Those states refused to ratify the constitution unless language would be added in an amendment that insisted that the new federal government would not establish its own national religion that would override their own state religions.
So the clear intent of the founders was a restriction upon the new federal government that it would pass no laws establishing a religion that conflicted with the states. It was not in any way an anti-religion clause. If anything, it was to protect religions.
Here is the detailed history. On June 8, 1789 James Madison made this first proposal for what would later become the first amendment : "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed." Strong and clear words from the key architect of the Constitution and a leading member of the First Congress. Those proceedings of the House of Representatives in which these matters were debated were recorded. After more variations and more discussion, the fifth version became the amendment that we know today. In this process, Madison clearly explained his meaning: "he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience."
None of the other Members of Congress who spoke during the August 15th debate expressed the slightest indication that they thought the language before them ... would require that the Government be absolutely neutral as between religion and irreligion. The evil to be aimed at, so far as those who spoke were concerned, appears to have been the establishment of a national church, and perhaps the preference of one religious sect over another; but it was definitely not concerned about whether the Government might aid all religions evenhandedly." (Rehnquist,
To show the ubiquity of this understanding at the time, we can point to congressional representative Elias Boudinot. On the day after the first amendment with its religious provisions passed, he proposed a resolution that the President, George Washington, issue a national day of Thanksgiving to "Almighty God". This on the day after the first amendment passed!
dissenting opinion, Wallace v. Jaffree)
On September 25, 1789 Boudinot's resolution was passed and Washington, within two weeks, declared Thursday, 26 of November as the first Thanksgiving day. His proclamation was filled with references to the deity but avoided any use of the specific term "God." Certainly Boudinot, the Congress, and George Washington all knew the meaning of the amendment they were celebrating. Yet that proclamation refers to the
"glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was ..."
Other actions of the founding fathers make abundantly clear that the founding fathers were not against religion. They participated in prayers on public property before Congress began, and more.
So, however did we get from that environment, supportive of religion in general, to our current condition where the "separation of church and state" is referenced in every judicial opinion on the subject of religion? The details of that process are very revealing and give us a distinctly new understanding of where we are at this time.
For a century and a half this first amendment stood as intended. In fact it was hardly referenced. The federal government passed no laws establishing a national religion.
Then in 1947 something changed. We should look briefly at the details. Ewing Township in New Jersey had been using the public bus system to get the school children to school. The township had been reimbursing the parents of the children to pay for the bus trips. But of course, some of those children were sent to Catholic parochial schools and were taught religious teachings on premises. Mr. Everson objected, the case reached the Supreme Court and became known as Everson v. Board of Education.
The court ruled in favor of the Township - they could continue to reimburse even Catholic parents without violating the constitution. However the majority opinion was written by Justice Hugo Black. Black indeed wrote for the majority but he slipped into the opinion a view of his own that was entirely contradictory to the ruling of the court. Yes - inconsistency in the same ruling. He added the new principle:
The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.
This was a new and previously unknown legal principle.
So if the specific words of the constitution were completely clear, if the intents of those drafting the first amendment were totally clear, if this clause had been clear for a century and a half, on what basis did Black introduce a new dictum?
The answer is that he found some incidental words written by Thomas Jefferson - obviously a founder - written in 1802 that spoke of this "wall" between church and state. On that he overturned the understanding of a century and a half. These days we no longer hear that the court ruled in favor of the township but we hear over and over again about this wall.
Since so many judicial rulings of relevance have been based on this "wall," we should look a little deeper at what Jefferson actually said.
I will be quoting that snippet from a side letter of Jefferson upon which our constitutional law has been based for the last half century. But some background. A Baptist community in Danbury Connecticut had written a letter to Jefferson in 1802 congratulating him on his successful election to president. As part of his response Jefferson celebrated that the American people had passed the first amendment and that that amendment gave the protection to the Baptists that they desired. That is, the amendment protected the church from the state. Here is the snippet.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
That Hugo Black misinterpreted this passage is apparently well known in some circles.
Ironically, Jefferson intended for his letter to the Danbury Baptists to reassure them that the new federal government would not endanger the free expression of their religion. This is widely known. But what is not well known is that Jefferson did not actually coin the phrase "separation of church and state." (The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian, p 56, 2005).
So now we have another mystery. Who was Jefferson quoting and what did that person mean? The answer is that they were words from a sermon written by Roger Williams, a prominent Baptist.
That sermon, rendered by Roger Williams (the founder of the Rhode Island Plantation colony, and a Baptist), depicted the church as a garden, the world as a wilderness, and the wall as a device of the Creator's invention that protected the garden from being overrun by the wilderness. Williams explained that, from time to time, for the
So now we have it. In a sermon the Baptist had envisioned a "wall" separating church and state and being a device of God. Most importantly, the purpose of that wall was to protect the church from the state. It was not, as Hugo Black would have it, to protect the state from the church. Justice Black turned this meaning on its head.
purpose of disciplining sin in the church, "it hath pleased" the Almighty to break down the wall. Thomas Jefferson, ever the politician, knew when he communicated with the Baptists that "The Garden And The Wilderness" was well known and widely read nearly two generations later. He appealed to them in the terms of their own great man's idiom. (Jim Henderson, letter to the editor, *Whistleblower* magazine, December 2003, 43.)
And of course, this letter of Jefferson, is hardly the criterion to be used to determine the meaning of the first amendment. Supreme court Justice Rehnquist explains:
It is impossible to build sound constitutional doctrine upon a mistaken understanding of constitutional history expressly freighted with Jefferson's misleading metaphor for nearly forty years. Thomas Jefferson was of course in France at the time the constitutional Amendments known as the Bill of Rights were passed by Congress and
And in the same opinion he wrote:
ratified by the States. His letter to the Danbury Baptist Association was a short note of courtesy, written fourteen years after the Amendments were passed by Congress. He would seem to any detached observer as a less than ideal source of contemporary history as to the meaning of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment ( 1985 Wallace
v. Jaffree Rehnquist).
"The metaphor of a 'wall of separation' is bad history and worse law. It has made a positive chaos out of court rulings. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned. (Rehnquist, dissenting opinion, Wallace v. Jaffree)
Jefferson was a sharp observer and thoughtful man. He wrote that incidental letter in 1802. By 1825 he wrote some words that apply particularly well to Judge Black:
This member of the Government [the judiciary] was at first considered as the most harmless and helpless of all its organs. But it has proved that the power of declaring what the law is ... by sapping and mining slyly and without alarm the foundations of the Constitution, can do what open force would not dare to attempt." (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825.)
I wonder if there is one question left. Why would a judge of the Supreme Court insert a new principle into an opinion that overtly contradicted the conclusion of that opinion? And why express it so vehemently?
Mark Levin, a long-time scholar of constitutional law makes this remark:
Black might have had darker motives behind his opinion. He had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920's, when the Klan was deeply resentful of the growing influence of Catholicism in the United States. (Men in Black by Mark R. Levin p 43, 2005)
Roger K. Newman wrote a biography of Black in 1994. He explains that Black had desired the result, that though the township had won the case and been allowed to pay for the buses, still the school system would lose out.
His goal, he remarked at the time, was to make it a pyrrhic victory and he quoted King Pyrrhus, "one more victory and I am undone". (Roger K. Newman, Hugo Black, A Biography, 1994)
And we have one more voice. Black's son has written the book "My Father" and explained that his father shared the Klan's dislike of the Catholic Church:
The Ku Klux Klan and Daddy, so far as I could tell, had one thing in common. He suspected the Catholic Church. He used to read all of Paul Blanshard's books exposing the power abuse in the Catholic Church. He thought the Pope and the bishops had too much power and property. He resented the fact that rental property owned by the Church was not taxed; he felt they got most of their revenue from the poor and did not return enough of it. (Hugo Black Jr, "My Father," p 104, 1975.)
Now you know. In summary: The fiction of "separation of church and state" is a legal monstrosity. It is not the meaning of the clear simple words in the first amendment. It is counter to the intent of the easily ascertainable thoughts of the founders. It is based on the words of Thomas Jefferson written 14 years later in an incidental letter not specifically on the Constitution. Jefferson was not in the country at the time of the drafting of the first amendment. His meaning was the opposite of that interpreted by the Judge. He was referring to a sermon in which the "wall" protected the church from the state and not the state from the church. The first amendment had been properly understood for a century and a half. A former Ku Klux Klan member sat in judgment on the Supreme Court and passed a judgment that happened to coincide with the views of the Klan that his son said he supported. The judge wrote those words in direct and purposeful contradiction to the majority opinion that he was supposed to be expressing.
Is there any reader of this newsletter that still supports that legal fabrication called "separation of church and state?" Actually the answer might be yes. There may be those who say they don't care how illegal it is. They don't care how unjust. They don't care how this turns one of our founding principles on its head and effectively makes this a nation of men, not laws. Their view will be that no matter what the cost and no matter what the means, they want all vestige of religion removed from the public square and they want no mention of anything religious in public school. Besides, Theosophy is a very small movement and has no chance of itself being in the public square.
This thought of the smallness of Theosophy reminds me of the increasingly famous words of Pastor Martin Niemöller.
First they came for the Jews
My understanding is that these words were in his last letter before he was murdered by the state. We are fortunate that we have these words so we may learn from them. It seems to me they embody a philosophic principle by which we should live. Perhaps it is also a Theosophic principle. To live contrary to this lesson is unphilosophic - perhaps un-Theosophic - and certainly unbecoming to a Theosophist.
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
What motivates me to share all this legal background is the fact that it impacts on Theosophy's goal of seeing a less materialistic-based society and a more spiritual one instead. To explain just briefly why Theosophists should care, I will summarize what the Supreme Court has done.
Darwinism is a religion. Philosophically this is so because Darwinism provides answers to the basic metaphysical questions that are the primary basis of religious inquiry. It talks about our creator - there wasn't one, it says. It effectively talks about what happens when we die. Simple - the pile of hydrocarbons stop walking and talking. It talks about values in life - there aren't any. We are each only a pile of walking, talking hydrocarbons activated by a complex of electro-chemical reactions. So there is no source of value. It casts opinions on other religions - they are false and should be forbidden from public recognition. It rests upon a fundamental axiom that may not be questioned by the faithful - to wit, there is no consciousness beyond the human cranium (and perhaps some smaller ones or some on distant planets). If a view transgresses that axiom, then that view is not "science" and is automatically false and forbidden from consideration. It shows dogmatism and will not tolerate discussion of its truth. When looking at all of the details we now know, it requires more faith to believe in Darwinism than in any major religion.
This places the actions of the Supreme Court in a different light. The Court has issued legal decrees that have "established" this "religion of materialism" as the national religion. Contrary scientific evidence is prohibited in government schools. Furthermore the court has ruled so as to prohibit "the free exercise thereof" in the following ways: It rules that any evidence pointing out problems with Darwinism has metaphysical implications, and that those presenting that evidence may lean in favor of the conclusions, and therefore, that evidence is prohibited. However, if evidence supporting Darwinism is presented, that also has metaphysical implications. But according to the court, one set of implications is okay and another set is forbidden to be heard by the public. The court has accomplished by legal decree what is expressly forbidden to the legislature.
So the court has both established a religion - with Darwin as its prophet - and has restricted the "free exercise thereof" for competing views.
This matters to Theosophy. We now have the federal judiciary imposing the religion of materialism as the official state religion. Students of impressionable ages are indoctrinated with this view. The spiritual view on the same subject is banished and forbidden. Blavatsky has made it one of the aims of her master work, the Secret Doctrine, to combat the rise of materialism. At the individual level, materialism leads to a philosophy of survival of the fittest in which there is no basis for morality. Conversely the spiritual view of Theosophy asserts that compassion is the law of laws and offers a grand, purposeful view that values life.
And one more factor motivates me. We may be at a unique point in time for Theosophy. Many, many people are witnessing the current conflict between science and religion and wondering if there could not be found a third solution. Indeed, Theosophy is that solution. But the court thwarts the natural evolution of our society in this more spiritual direction.
In the past we have each contributed our small mite of responsibility through ignorance in allowing the Supreme Court to maintain this legal fabrication. We have unwittingly acquiesced to this fraud upon the people that thwarts the advancement of the spiritual view of life.
But now you know.
"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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